Protests in Myanmar have turned deadly.
Earlier this month, the Myanmar military arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, declared a state of emergency, took power, and temporarily shut off the internet. The junta (aka the country's military) claimed this was all in response to last year's alleged fraudulent elections. And charged Suu Kyi with illegally importing walkie-talkies (yes, walkie-talkies) and breaking coronavirus restrictions. Citizens have taken to the streets in peaceful protest – including using things like balloons, pots, and pans to express their discontent. Over the weekend, protests there took a turn after security forces shot and killed two people – raising the death toll to at least three. All of this has only added to Myanmar's troubled history.
For nearly 50 years, Myanmar (aka Burma) was under oppressive military rule. But in 2011, the military ended its control, opening the door to a civilian gov. The country, which had seen high rates of poverty and longstanding conflict between the military and the country's ethnic minority groups, began to try its hand at democracy. But the military still maintained control over parts of the gov (25% seats in parliament and total control of Defense). In 2017, things took another turn.
After an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group, the military cracked down on Rohingya Muslims. Thousands were raped, killed, and their villages burned down, forcing more than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The UN described the violence as ethnic cleansing. But Suu Kyi defended her military's actions in front of the International Court of Justice – the UN's highest court. She called the allegations "misleading" and stood by the junta. Now, after a decade of democracy, Myanmar is back under military rule.
The international community has condemned the violence. Earlier this month, President Biden ordered sanctions, targeting junta leaders and limiting the military's access to $1 billion of Myanmar gov funds being held in the US. And he and the UN have called for Suu Kyi's release. But the military's saying 'this isn't a coup,' and that the country's constitution allows them to step in during an emergency. They say the state of emergency will stay in place for at least a year, and they will hold new elections but didn't give a date.
After decades of military rule, many thought the country was moving toward democracy. But the military coup seems to be upending that. Now, the military's treatment of protesters has turned violent and has the international community worried.
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Skimm’d by Maria del Carmen Corpus, Mariza Smajlaj, Clem Robineau, and Julie Shain
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